Amazon.com is fantastic. It has changed the way we buy almost everything – especially books. What sucks about it is the review capability. Basically anyone who purchases your book, can post a review of it. At first that seems benign, but in reality, it gives every troll on the internet the capability to voice their opinion – no matter how crazy. Worse yet, it is nearly impossible to get reviews removed from a book…trust me, I’ve tried. Reddit is even worse…it is the freshman dormitory for internet trolldom.
While merely my opinion, I strongly believe that the internet turns normal idiots into connected idiots who proffer their pointless opinions to the world with the same credibility as geniuses. Feel free to use this quote on Twitter. I think it would make a swell t-shirt.
Not every negative comment is the result of a troll. Some people have issues with my writing style or structure of the book. Unfortunately, just because you don’t like the style, doesn’t mean that others won’t love it.
Amazon does let writers respond to comments, but I have found this only feeds the narcissistic needs of the trolls that post the negative comments. I don’t have the time or inclination to get into a pissing match with some stranger. At the risk of sounding egotistical (which I am); it is beneath my dignity and a waste of my time.
Bear in mind I write in a number of genres, business management, military history, science fiction, and of course, true crime.
I understand (now) that being a successful writer means you are a public figure of sorts. That means you are open to critique, good and bad. I had no idea when I began this journey back at Central Michigan University in 1980 that I would find myself being reviewed by total strangers. I wonder if it would have changed some of my decisions?
I get far more positive reviews over bad ones, but still, I read them all. Every time I tell myself it is the last. Here’s some of the more insipid comments I’ve seen and my rebuttal to them:
“This book could have used an editor.” “This book is poorly edited…” I’ve seen this one with a variety of books from different publishers. To be upfront, I am not perfect (my wife will love this.) Let me say this, I have and utilize editors. They often have master’s degrees in English. They edit the books carefully, meticulously, and with precision. The real problem is people who think they know the English language better than those that edit books for a living. Trust me, if my editors sucked, they would be out of a job. Most, however, are very talented. Often time’s my books are read 3-5 times, by different people/editors, checking and rechecking. It is a labor-intensive process done by skilled professionals. I don’t always agree with my editors and I love to torment them; but they are thorough and do a good job. Just because you don’t agree with my/their decisions, does not make them or me wrong. The English language is not a law etched in stone, it is not formulaic in nature. It is a guide that sometimes is stretched to its limits by creative people. Just because your second grade teacher told you something, doesn’t make you an expert. Sidebar: I deliberately violated several rules of English in this rebuttal, just to give you self-appointed editors cerebral aneurisms.
“This book is repetitive in parts.” The insinuation is that my restating of something is a mistake. It is not. I repeat some elements solely to make a point. Where not appropriate, the editor will point it out to me; see above douchebag. On my new books, we will be introducing something in the introduction, then explaining it in great nauseating detail in its own chapter later in the book. That’s not repetitive, it is deliberate and planned. Also, other writers do this all of the time – Ann Rule did in several of her works. Oh, I get it, if Ann did it, it’s okay…
“This book is almost too perfect…” I actually saw this on a three-star review recently. Three stars? What a pompous asshat. In other words, I wrote a great book, so they had to rake it over the coals.
“There’s nothing new in this book that I haven’t seen before.” Just to be clear, the individuals that post this stuff are either lying or wrong. Every non-fiction book I have ever written has introduced new material that has never been made public before. I pride myself on that as does my daughter. Anyone writing this is really trying to say, “Look at me, I know more than the person that spent over a year researching this.”
“The author(s) overlook obvious suspects.” Let’s be clear, there are people out there with agendas of their own. I know of one woman that has posted two reviews of my book under alias’s she has created. Her purpose is nefarious – she has someone she wants to link to some murders to draw attention to her own suspect/research in a non-related crime. It is bat-shit crazy, but there are people out there that are so focused on their own twisted agendas that they load up reviews and post things on various blogs and web sites to further their plans. Sad, yet sick.
“The author doesn’t know the BattleTech universe well.” “This story is a retcon of established BattleTech history…” These came up years ago and made me laugh pretty hard. It still does from time-to-time. It’s the damned Clan Wolverine haters. Like a dog with a bone they will not let it go.
I wrote a lot of the early BattleTech history. Here’s my bibliography: Bibliography Also, anything I have ever written had to be approved by the powers-that-be to become canon in the universe. So, to be concise, if I wrote it and it was published, it IS canon, dillweed. I make stuff up, but I always get my work approved by seasoned veterans of the intellectual property. I won’t go into the whole Wolverine-thing in detail, but since I created that Clan and wrote the only bio information on Nicholas Kerensky, I feel pretty safe in what I did with them. I have been writing BattleTech since 1986. Don’t tell me that I don’t know the universe well. I am fu*king proud of my body of work.
“Reads Like a High School Term Paper.” This review was on a book that was a New York Times Bestseller my daughter and I wrote. I do understand that the presentation of facts can be burdensome. When you are writing a true crime about a cold case, you don’t want to get too flowery in the text or present a great deal of speculation. Nonfiction books tend to be a presentation of facts. I’m probably more offended with the “high school” part more than the actual review. Seriously? I have a master’s degree and have completed about 1/3 of a doctorate program. Bite me.
“This was a good story but no closure.” Many of the cases I write about are cold cases. Some authors do this and claim they have “solved” the cases. I tend to lean away from those books. If you solved the case, then where is the prosecution or the announcement from authorities that they consider the case closed? With cold cases, I maintain that the writers need to present the facts and let the readers arrive at their own conclusions. People need to form their own opinions – not have the author craft the facts around their pet-theory. Almost always, I make sure in the introduction that we tell readers that the case is unresolved. Let me be clear, if you are reading a book about a cold case I have written, you will not get that closure at the end…BECAUSE IT IS A COLD CASE.
“True crime books are supposed to end in a trial.” Most of my books in this genre are on cold cases. I appreciate the vote of confidence from the reviewer…that somehow we might solve the crime and inflict overdue justice. This is the real-world. I am a writer. Our books generate tips for the authorities, but we do not solve the case on our own.
“His fiction does not reflect gameplay.” Okay, this is a BattleTech one. My response is, “good, because I was writing fiction, not documenting a game of BattleTech.” I follow the rules, but in the fictionalizing of a battle, things happen that rules do not exist for. If I merely played out a battle and wrote about it, it would be dull and boring. I strive to adhere to the rules, but at the same time, I feel empowered to push the limits with battles.
Personal attacks. These come in a number of nasty comments, so let me focus on one in particular. I have been accused of be a Confederate sympathizer in one review. WTF? Not true. First, I am a historian. Second, I have incorporated the Civil War into many of my military sci-fi novels just for parallels. I respect Southern military leader’s prowess without lamenting about the Confederacy’s fate. Third, I am against tearing down historic statues and renaming things out of idiotic fits of political correctness or someone having hurt feelings. I have voiced my opinion on that because I believe it is wrong to destroy or obscure history. I also believe that you do not have a right to not be offended in this country. In fact, one things Americans excel at is offending people. Grow a pair and stop whining and labeling.
I am not a Confederate or Lost Cause sympathizer. In my entire writing career I wrote three whole pages about the Lost Cause and then only in non-fiction, in the story of Bert Hall in my biography, The Bad Boy. In other words, no big deal. None of this makes me a Confederate sympathizer. I empower none of you to slap a label on me without my consent. Calling me a Confederate Sympathizer; that simply makes me want to be one. People that run around labeling people to attempt to damage their reputation are low forms of life. You can take your social justice-self-anointed sense of empowerment and shove it high-and-hard.
Ahh…that felt great. If I have offended anyone who gave me negative feedback; good.